Match preview: Levante vs. Atlético

Colchoneros looking to seal Champions League spot in midst of AFE strike

Atleti out for revenge against Levante

Atleti out for revenge against Levante

With a player’s strike over TV rights looming over Spanish football, Atlético travel to Levante this weekend unsure of whether they will be playing again at all this season.

As things stand, next week’s clash with Barcelona and the final day trip to Granada will be affected, although there is no word yet as to whether they will be postponed or suspended altogether.

Sunday’s game does go ahead though, with kick-off in the Ciutat de Valencia stadium set for the early time of 12:00 CET.

The AFE and LFP are planning to meet on Monday to try and come to a resolution, and according to MARCA, there is a genuine chance that the season could end this weekend.

However, even though that would guarantee third spot and prevent a situation where we could literally hand our title to Real Madrid, the reigning champions have to keep going about their business as usual, partido a partido.

Atleti have a score to settle with Levante, as at this exact stage last season, they suffered a 2-0 defeat in the same fixture that very nearly proved critical in their bid to win La Liga.

That loss still leaves a sour taste, as the home side were playing with the extra motivation of third-party cash influx, despite having already avoided the threat of relegaton.

Right now they hover just four points above the drop zone, but a win would confirm their survival once more so they will most likely be playing with a similar intensity tomorrow.

Diego Simeone is yet to win in the Ciutat de Valencia in three visits as manager, and the ground has always been a notoriously difficult one for his side. Our last win there came in 2007, when Diego Forlán scored the only goal of the game.

The Argentine tactician seemed relaxed in his press conference though, and praised his team’s enthusiasm and eagerness to continue fighting for every point.

“We have worked very hard, with the aim of going into this phase in the best conditions possible.” he said.

“The team looks in good shape, the players are hungry and are competing in a league which, day by day, is showing itself to be the best in the world.”

Cholo also addressed his poor record at Levante, and further underlined the team’s desire to go and get the three points.

“That’s right, we’ve lost twice and drawn one so this time, we’re going there determined to improve our figures against a tough and competitive side who have a lot of experience at the back.

“Obviously, we will be trying to impose our influence on the game and turn it into the kind of match that suits us.”

Nineteen players have been summoned by Simeone, with only Diego Godín unavailable having accumulated his tenth booking against Athletic Bilbao last week. Teenager Lucas replaces him in the squad.

Loanees Cani and Cristian Ansaldi also miss the trip through technical decision, and have both more than likely played their last games in the red and white.

Levante on the other hand are missing Simão Mate and Víctor Casadesus through suspension, as well as the injured Pape Diop.

We await news next week as to whether the season is to continue, but either way, Atleti will seal Champions League qualification with a win.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Siqueira, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez, Lucas
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl
Forwards: Mandžukić, Raúl Jiménez, Torres